Friday, October 18, 2013

CNRP to Hold Second 3-Day Mass Protest

Photo courtesy:

By Mech Dara and Alex Willemyns - October 18, 2013

The opposition CNRP has sent a letter to municipal authorities informing them that a mass demonstration planned for Wednesday at Freedom Park to coincide with the anniversary of the 1991 signing of the Paris Peace Agreement will now be a three-day affair and include marches to at least seven foreign embassies.

The letter, dated Wednesday, says that the demonstration—which will run from 7 a.m. Wednesday until 6 p.m. Friday—will be held to again push for an independent investigation into the July 28 national election and to deliver a petition calling on the 18 signatories of the 1991 agreement to intervene in the country.

“The CNRP will hold a nonviolent mass demonstration to find truth and justice for the people regarding the irregularities during the fifth parliamentary election, and to demand that the government fully implement the Paris agreement of October 23, 1991,” the letter reads.

“[It will include] free expression of demonstrators, art performances, singing, the showing of documentaries, peaceful sitting and marches to deliver a petition to the U.N. through the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and embassies in Cambo­dia, such as the French, Japanese, U.S., Chinese, Indonesian, English and Australian embassies,” it adds.

The letter cites the human rights situation in the country and the crippling of the multi-party political system as two examples of the incomplete implementation of the Paris agreement.

The CNRP had on September 28 announced that the demonstration to deliver the petition to signatories of the peace agreement would only run between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, but CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Thursday that he was unaware of the previous statement and said the demonstration was always planned as a multi-day event.

“It will be at least three days,” he said. “It could be more—it will depend on the situation and it will depend on the willingness of the demonstrators.”

Mr. Sovann clarified that one petition would be lodged with the U.N. in Cambodia, while separate letters with notification of the petition would be delivered to a number of embassies whose governments are signatories of the agreement.

“On October 23, we will march to the U.N. office, and on the 24 and 25 we will march to the em­bassies,” he said.

Mr. Sovann added that CNRP president Sam Rainsy would also return to the country from his international tour in time for the demonstration, likely on Tuesday.

Mr. Rainsy has been on a trip to Europe and the U.S. since October 7 to call on Paris agreement signatories to cut ties with the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen until it agrees to an independent election investigation, or to a deal with the CNRP to end its boycott of the National Assembly.

The opposition leader was in Washington on Wednesday to convince U.S. lawmakers and officials from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that Mr. Hun Sen’s government lacks the legitimacy to sign on to loans and contracts on behalf of Cambodia, according to the Associated Press.

“The international community, especially donor countries, should not do business as usual with the current Cambodian government,” Mr. Rainsy is quoted as saying.

The CNRP has been obstructed in its attempts to collect 3 million signatures and thumb prints for its petition to the U.N. and the agreement signatories, with Phnom Penh City Hall on October 10 having handed down an order to authorities to prevent people gathering names for the petition in public places.

Next week’s demonstration will be the opposition’s first since last month’s three-day mass demonstration in which the streets of Phnom Penh were placed in a state of near total security shut down and one man was shot dead near Monivong Bridge after clashes broke out between authorities and stone-throwing protesters angered over the severe road blockages caused by the security forces.

At that time, major boulevards and small streets alike were closed off around Phnom Penh using barricades covered in razor-wire and manned by military police, while a number of smaller demonstrations held since have been marred by the authorities’ attempts to quash them with violence.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said municipal authorities will meet with CNRP leaders at 8 a.m. today to discuss the opposition’s planned demonstration and marches but declined to comment further.

National military police spokes­man Lieutenant General Kheng Tito said that military police would follow orders from City Hall to either stop opposition supporters from marching or to provide them with security as they march.

“If the authorities do not allow them on the roads and they still want to march, we will prevent them from marching,” he said. “The prevention will depend on the situation: We won’t touch them, we just prohibit them walking, but if they use violence, we will crack down.”

“We are authorities, and we don’t want anything to impact the demonstrators because they are Khmer like the authorities too,” he added.

If the CNRP follows through with its plans to march to the U.N. offices and the seven embassies listed in its letter to City Hall, and attracts anywhere near the 20,000 people who turned out to its three-day demonstration last month, security forces may be forced to deal with marching on a scale never before seen in the capital.

Marie-Dominique Parent, officer in charge and deputy representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Phnom Penh, said the organization was aware of the petition.

“OHCHR is aware that the CNRP plans to deliver a petition to the U.N. Secretary General through our Office in Cambodia. We will receive it and forward it as necessary to the Office of the Secretary General in New York,” Ms. Parent said in a message.

Mr. Sovann, the CNRP spokes­man, said the opposition would not be deterred if authorities decide to prohibit the demonstration and marches.

“Why? Why would they send police and barricades? Are we the enemy? Are we doing anything wrong?” Mr. Sovann asked.

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